- Dirk VanderHart
- Quinn Colling, an outreach worker with JOIN, chats up a homeless man in SW Portland in January 2015.
A supplemental budget [pdf] the mayor's bringing to Portland City Council on Wednesday would dedicate $2.75 million toward stemming the tide of homelessness in the city. Among the proposals: Hales wants to spend $1 million dollars to potentially ready an old army building off SW Barbur as shelter space.
As first reported by the Mercury, Hales and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury toured the old Sgt. Jerome Sears US Army Reserve center on September 22, a day before Hales surprised Kafoury and many of his colleagues by signaling he'd like to declare a state of emergency to more easily site homeless shelters in the city.
The mayor's office has since said there could be pushback from the federal government—which sold the reserve center to the city several years ago, but still has some say in how it's used. The city's long-term plans are to house an emergency planning facility in the building, located at 2730 SW Multnomah. But that's not stopping Hales from asking his colleagues to spend money on the site, which city Budget Director Andrew Scott confirms would be used for making the facility "shelter-ready."
Here's a video about the building:
Also included in Hales' budget ask: A brand new request for $1.26 million that'd be used on homeless shelters, though no one's offering specifics on that money. And Hales is recommending approving requests from Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the Portland Housing Bureau to bolster housing vouchers ($425,000) and help prevent evictions for domestic violence survivors ($60,000).
Hales' office hasn't responded to our inquiries about the budget asks—one of two yearly "supplemental" budgets in which the city squares up its finances, putting excess cash toward (mostly) one-time uses and infrastructure fixes.
Portland's part of an ever expanding group of cities around the country deciding their homeless problems have reached emergency status.
The latest addition? Seattle Mayor Ed Murray this afternoon followed in the footsteps of LA and Portland by declaring a homelessness state of emergency. Murray's proposing the same essential deal as Portland, though he's recommended far fewer dollars—$7.3 million as opposed to the $30 million proposed here.
Seattle's homeless figures are actually well worse than Portland's. According to our sister paper, The Stranger, county officials report 35,000 people become "newly homeless" in King County each year. That's insane. In Multnomah County, the group A Home For Everyone (HFE) estimates "inflows" of around 5,300 into homelessness on a yearly basis, with a near equal "outflow" of people securing housing. HFE says roughly 9,650 people a year experience homelessness in Multnomah County.
Seattle's also having a harder time managing the growth of homelessness. King County's seen a 21 percent increase in people sleeping outside, while Portland's homeless count suggests our growth is relatively flat.